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Children home-schooled aboard RV Reading, writing and road trips

Category: RV
Source: Ventura County Star
Publish Date: Monday, January 5, 2009
Summary: The Newbury Park family motor-home-schooled its way through more than 30 states, traveling in a recreational vehicle to national parks, historic sites and museums.

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Cheri Carlson

Jan. 5, 2009 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex) -- The four Meitler sisters this fall stood inside the Philadelphia room where the nation's forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence.

The girls saw former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev receive the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia, walked on Civil War battlegrounds, met a man who worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama, and toured Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

The Newbury Park family motor-home-schooled its way through more than 30 states, traveling in a recreational vehicle to national parks, historic sites and museums.

Katelyn, 14, Rebecca, 12, Christina, 10, Rachel, 6, and their parents, Carole, 44, and Paul Meitler, 41, arrived back in California in December -- seven months after giving up their privacy, their closets, their friends and their 3,000-square-foot home.

In exchange, "history became real," Paul Meitler said from a seat inside the white-and-tan RV, where school supplies are tucked into drawers and everyone's clothes hang in a communal closet inside the only bedroom.

In 2007, about 1.5 million U.S. students were home-schooled, nearly 3 percent of the school-age population, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

That's up from an estimated 1.1 million students in 2003.

The number of families choosing to go on the road to teach their children wasn't reported, but Internet discussion forums and blogs have been created about the practice, which some call a trend.

The Meitlers said they just wanted to show their kids the places, people and history they read about in books.

"You're walking through it," Paul said. "You stand where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and you realize the flurry that was happening right then."

All four Meitler girls are being home-schooled, taking some classes or participating in extra-curricular activities through private, Christian home-school programs.

Going on an educational trip with the children was always a dream, said mom Carole, especially after tackling early American history last year.

It always seemed unrealistic until this spring, when the family sold its house more quickly than expected while trying to downsize. Without a mortgage and with management consulting work Paul could do remotely, the Meitlers decided it was time.

"We bought a motor home and took off," said Carole.

At first the family had planned a three-month trip, but decided fairly quickly to slow down and take more time, scheduling stops about a week at a time.

The Meitlers traveled through Yellowstone National Park, watched the Fourth of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore and visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., four times.

As they traveled, the girls would read about history, civics or science that coincided with the places they were visiting. They also would follow along in their geography books and work on math.

"A lot of times when you read it in the book, you don't really pay attention to it. You just read it because you have to," Rebecca said. "When you visit the sites, then you can actually understand it more."

While on the road, Katelyn took a biology class over the Internet. She and Rebecca also took online sign-language and essay-writing courses.

Home schooling on the road "is not common necessarily," said Loren Mavromati, president of the California Homeschool Network, which provides resources and support for home-schoolers statewide. But it can be "an excellent perk" of home schooling.

A road trip can be difficult and require financial sacrifice, said Mavromati, who home-schools in the Los Angeles area. But home schooling gives families the freedom of following their own schedules, whether it's a big trip or something else.

The Meitlers faced some adjustments living in a 270-square-foot motor home.

Rebecca joked about a clothes-burning ceremony for the limited wardrobe they had for seven months, and they all learned more about one another, living in a space where they can hear every conversation.

Carole and Paul, however, said they were surprised at how well everyone adapted and how much they didn't miss the things left in storage.

It wasn't all history and literature while they were away, either. In Florida, they visited Disney World -- "their great reward," Carole said. They also got to see manatees swimming just a few feet away and a space shuttle launch.

The family is now looking for a home to rent until the housing market stabilizes and is not planning any more trips -- yet.

"We would do this again in a heartbeat," Carole said. "Even for me, it was the best education I've ever gotten."

Newstex ID: KRTB-0210-30852555

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